Al'Qaeda claims attack on army hqtrs, French embassy — BURKINA FASO

Mar 06, 2018, 02:03
Al'Qaeda claims attack on army hqtrs, French embassy — BURKINA FASO

Troops ride in a vehicle near the French Embassy in central Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Friday March 2, 2018.

Gunfire and explosions resounded for hours but subsided by midday. Workers fled nearby offices and helicopters were seen above the embassy.

Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world. It shares a northern border with Mali, which has long battled Islamic extremists.

At the same time, the bomb went off near the headquarters of the Burkinabe armed forces and the French cultural centre, about a km from the site of the first attack, other witnesses said.

Officials and witnesses said a carload of gunmen arrived at France's consulate in Ouagadougou, emerged and began shooting.

French President Emmanuel Macron's office says he is following the situation and French authorities are urging French citizens to avoid the city center.

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The explosion inside the headquarters shook surrounding buildings, set the compound on fire and sent up a thick column of black smoke.

"Some of the soldiers ran into a nearby bank to seek shelter".

The defence minister said three assailants were killed at the army headquarters.

However, the surroundings of the two scenes of the attack (French embassy and the army general staff headquarters) are off-limit, practically sealed off to render them inaccessible to curious members of the public. Security forces have struggled to contain the attacks.

On August 13 past year, two assailants opened fire on a restaurant on the capital's main avenue, killing 19 people and wounding 21.

A similar assault in 2016 on a cafe and hotel popular with Western diplomats in the same district of the city left 29 dead.

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A group called al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) also said some of its militants were involved.

Nine jihadists were killed by law enforcement during the attacks that have since been claimed by Al Qaeda affiliate Jama'a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM).

"In this hard moment I want to reaffirm to Africa and to the whole world my unassailable faith in the ability of the Burkinabé people to preserve their dignity and put up a strong resistance to its enemies both inside and outside", he said.

Among his objectives has been ending the use of French, the former colonizer's language, in regional schools. Two attackers were captured, according to military source and state television.

But he is not the only threat. A planned meeting of the G5 Sahel regional anti-terrorism force may have been the target of the terrorist attack.

The countries' troops join forces where they can. There was no claim of responsibility.

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Burkinabe security sources gave a lower toll, saying "around 15" people were killed, while the army's medical chief, Colonel Amado Kafando, said 75 others had been injured.

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